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Arsenal vs Tottenham match preview: The acid test

The Gunners face their rivals in hopes of asserting their title aspirations

Thierry Henry of Arsenal

Nothing says “welcome back” from an international break quite like a jam-packed October fixture list - 9 in total across all comps for the Gunners. Arsenal’s stellar opening to the season will be put to the test, and kicking things off is a North London Derby against hated cross-town rivals Tottenham Hotspur, with a single point separating the league leaders from their noisy neighbors. Both sides are firmly in the mix for cementing a top four spot ahead of the World Cup in December, and both will be desperate to assert themselves against each other in the never-ending battle for North London bragging rights.

As usual, Spurs lean on one of the most clinical attacks in the Premier League to get their results, and this season is no different - Spurs’ 18 goals scored through six matches are second only to Manchester City’s 23. Sure, a third of them came against a miserable Leicester City side, but there is no denying the lethal caliber of the likes of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son when given time and space.

On the flipside, the Gunners’ defense has been sterling so far this season. William Saliba has quickly become one of the league’s most dominant defenders, and his pairing with Gabriel has gone better than anyone could have anticipated. But for all of their success, their difficulty with handling the counter attack was put on display in a frustrating loss at Manchester United. The Gunners dominated the majority of the match, but conceded two goals on counters that took advantage of the Arsenal’s high line, struggling to adjust all match despite United’s obvious tactics.

Not to oversimplify, but the match will almost certainly come down to the battle between Spurs attack and Arsenal’s defense. Cutting off service to Spurs’ front three will be the priority, and limiting their chances on the counter will be paramount. For all of Arsenal’s talent, little can be done if Kane or Son are successful in getting in behind. The midfield will need to win their battles and dictate the play to help keep the midfield out of dangerous situations.

The Gunners’ attack this year has blossomed thanks in large part to Gabriel Jesus’ renaissance under Mikel Arteta. His incredible work rate and ability to win the ball in tight spaces has allowed Arsenal to become a more potent side in front of goal. While finishing has continued to be a long-term issue for Arteta’s side, creating chances has not. The dynamic play of Jesus and the ascendant season of Gabriel Martinelli has elevated the Gunners’ attack, and, with Bukayo Saka’s dribbling and assists, the front line is capable of punishing defenses from all sides.

If past NLDs are any indicator, there will be an abundance of drama. There have been no shortage of penalties given, bookings, and sending offs in recent years, and with both teams eager to assert their dominance over their rivals, the usual tempers will flare up. Arsenal will look to repeat last season’s home-field 3-1 dominance and not the dismal performance away from home in May.

The home crowd will be in full voice. All eyes will be on the Emirates stadium. Let’s get after it.

WHAT: Arsenal vs Tottenham Hotspur
WHEN: Saturday, October 1st, 7:30am EST/4:30am PST/12:30pm BST
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: USA and Telemundo. Streaming online on NBC Sports.

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